Most of us put on a few extra pounds over the years and have tried various methods to lose it and maintain our weight. One of the most effective ways I've found to do this, which I shared in my 30-day healthy habits course, is the 400:4 Diet.
What is the 400:4 Diet?
Following the 400:4 Diet means consuming no more than 400 calories in 4 hours (400 in 4). It's one of the most effective ways to keep yourself on track because you only need to remember what you've eaten and drank in the last 4 hours. Best of all, this isn't a temporary diet. Incorporating this idea into your daily habits can be part of a sustainable lifestyle change.
How Does the 400:4 Diet Work?
The USDA recommends a calorie range of 1,600-2400 for adults. If you are eating and drinking no more than 400 calories in any given 4-hour period, the maximum you can consume is 2,400 calories.
If you eat 400-calorie meals at 7 AM, 11 AM, 3 PM, and 7 PM, you will have consumed 1,600 calories in those four meals. That's well within the recommended calorie counts for weight loss for the average individual.
This plan doesn't call for any set number of meals; it's just a mindful way to eat and a good way to keep our portion sizes down. Eating smaller meals frequently can help keep you from being too hungry throughout the day.
What if I Miss a Meal?
I didn't design this plan to incorporate a specific number of meals throughout the day, although most people will eat three to five 400-calorie meals using this method. Instead, it merely defines the maximum number of calories you can eat in any 4-hour period. Slow and steady is best for losing weight, as studies show that people who gradually and steadily lose 1 to 2 pounds a week tend to keep the weight off.
If you lose weight much faster than a few pounds a week, eat more next time if you miss a meal. Otherwise, don't worry about the past; resume the program by eating up to 400 calories in the next 4 hours.
What if I Overeat?
If you overeat, wait 1 hour for every 100 calories before consuming more. I could have just as easily called this the 100:1, 500:5, or 600:6 method, as you should be eating about 100 calories every hour on average.
For example, if you eat 800 calories at a family dinner, wait 8 hours instead of 4 for that food to settle before your next meal (800:8). That probably means waiting until breakfast before you eat again. If you eat 600 calories at lunch, wait 6 hours before consuming more.
If you gorge yourself and eat an entire extra-large supreme pizza and a gallon of ice cream, give it a rest for the day and try to get back on the program tomorrow. Occasionally overeating at a holiday party isn't going to cause any problems. Eating a frat party-sized buffet every few days will.
Why the 400:4 Diet Is so Easy to Follow
The biggest problem I had with tracking my food was that I'd eat all day, then figure out that I'd gone over after the fact. This method makes you more mindful of what you eat at each meal and is very convenient when you're constantly on the go. Most fast food places and restaurants label the calorie counts on meals, so you can immediately see what fits into this plan when on the road.
For example, a McChicken is 400 calories, so I know I can eat that with this plan, but I wouldn't add a large Coke and fry for another 780 calories. If I do happen to go over, which does happen, I don't beat myself up; I merely wait a bit longer than usual to let that food settle before resuming the program with the next meal.
There Is More to Staying Healthy Than Counting Calories
It is important to note that more goes into getting and staying healthy than just calorie counting. Check out our healthy habits course for more specifics on getting and staying fit, including what foods will calm those cravings. Based on the latest scientific data, you'll get specific activities to do in your inbox over the next 30 days to help get you into a healthy routine. For the price of a meal, create some new habits this month that can last a lifetime!
About the Author
Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.
Lately, life has been chaotic. Board meetings at night, long work days, 5 kids that need to be everywhere at the same
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